There are lots of benefits to a fall capsule wardrobe—more closet space, less time spent crafting outfits in the morning, a higher percentage of your shopping budget to put toward each piece. But even if you consider yourself more of a maximalist, building a core base of separates that can easily mix and match with one another can make it easier in the long run to start incorporating bolder patterns, brighter colors or otherwise trendier items. So, to start us all off on the chicest foot possible this season, we’ve put together a list of the 12 items you need in order to build the ultimate fall capsule wardrobe.
Everything You Need for the Ultimate Fall Capsule Wardrobe
But first, what is a capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a pared down list of clothing, shoes and accessories that can be easily mixed and matched with one another to create simple, chic ensembles with less effort. Most have a neutral color palette featuring shades of beige, white, black, navy and gray, but that doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to just those hues. If you’d rather mix and match warm tones like yellows, oranges and reds, we say go for it. So long as there are no outstanding pieces that require an additional accessory or clothing item that can’t be worn with everything else, you’ve got yourself a capsule wardrobe.
How do I choose what to include in my fall capsule wardrobe?
Think about the pieces you wear most often and that work best for the greatest number of scenarios. For instance, jeans can work for pretty much any daily occasion, from working in an office to dinner dates to weekend errand running. Then again, maybe you’re more of a skirt person. Pick out the items from your closet that you already wear on the regular, then start to ID where there might be any gaps. Do you often wish you had a different pair of sneakers to mix in with your wardrobe? Or maybe a different fall jacket? Combine that with your day-to-day needs and voilà!
How to create a capsule wardrobe
Start with bottoms. You only need three or so, and here it’s a bit more important to stick with neutral tones and clean washes so you can better mix with and show off your collection of tops. Speaking of, your second step should be tops. Be sure to consider how they will layer with one another (i.e., how sweaters will look over T-shirts or blouses and how jackets will layer over knits). This group will likely be the largest section of your capsule wardrobe, giving you the most options to switch things up from day to day. Next consider shoes. It’s best to choose practical footwear like flats or ankle boots over stilettos, but you do you, reader. As for bags, we think most folks can make do with just two—one larger tote for work or errands, and one day bag that fits just the essentials with a bit of extra space just in case. Last but not least, think about adding a few dresses. The great thing about dresses is that they’re pretty much standalone pieces anyway, so feel free to add in handful, making sure they’ll pair well with your shoes and jackets.
Our top fall capsule wardrobe picks
1. Classic Denim
Warp & Weft Ase High-rise Straight Jeans
The ultimate wardrobe basic, a classic pair of jeans can be dressed up for dinner dates or the office and down for weekend brunch or hanging at home. Dark blue washes with no distressing and a straight leg fit are likely your best bet for a timeless appeal, but skinny jeans work just as well (despite what Gen Z may have to say on the matter).
Size range: 25 to 32
Shop more styles: Levi’s 501 Straight ($98); AYR The Pop Jeans ($225); AE Ne(x)t Level High-Waist Jeggings ($40)
2. Trendy Denim
Abercrombie & Fitch High-rise ‘90s Jeans
Just because you’re building a minimalist wardrobe doesn’t mean you have to eschew trends altogether. You can absolutely add a pair of trendier jeans into the mix, be it a ‘70s-inspired wide-leg or a '90s mom jean, so long as they seamlessly fit in with your top and shoe options.
Size range: 23 to 37
Shop more styles: Paige Lou Lou High-Rise Flare Jeans ($249); Pilcro Low-Rise Utility Jeans ($168); Madewell Balloon Jeans ($138)
3. Easy Cardigan
State Cashmere Crewneck Button Cardigan
Yes, you should also invest in a few pullover sweaters, but a cardigan makes it a bit easier to create a layered look and allows you to still show off your favorite T-shirts and blouses. Opt for slimmer designs over chunky knits for fall to ensure you can still slip your arms into the sleeves of a jacket if necessary.
Size range: XS to XXL
Shop more styles: L.L.Bean Basketweave Cardigan ($70); J.Crew V-Neck Cotton-Cashmere Cardigan ($148); Alex Mill Nico Chunky Cardigan ($135)
4. Basic T-shirt
Madewell Northside Vintage Tee
Capsule wardrobe or not, every closet should have a handful of simple T-shirts in the mix. A white crewneck is by far the most classic option, and can be tucked into jeans or layered under sweaters, but you can also throw a few other colors in there (like black, gray, khaki green or even blue-and-white stripes), or a scoop or V-neck if you prefer the way they look.
Size range: XXS to 3X
Shop more styles: Old Navy Vintage Easy T-shirt ($17); Thread 4 Thought Invincible Tee ($38); lululemon All Yours Cotton T-shirt ($58); Levi’s Artist T-Shirt ($30)
5. Striped Tee and/or Sweater
Kule Modern Long-sleeve
You don’t have to stick only to solid hues when building a capsule wardrobe, and stripes are definitely the easiest pattern to work with. They function almost as a neutral, especially if you opt for timeless navy-and-white or black-and-white. Horizontal is also better than vertical. (P.S. Leopard spots can also function as a neutral if you want to add another pattern, and can look super chic with both solids and stripes.)
Size range: XS to XXL
Shop more styles: AYR The French Fry Tee ($78); La Ligne Mini Marin Sweater ($275); Reformation Cashmere Boyfriend Sweater ($148)
6. Oversize Blazer
Treasure & Bond Double-Breasted Blazer
A great blazer can pull double duty as workwear or a chic jacket off the clock. The best versions have a slightly oversize fit (better for layering), but it’s entirely up to you whether you prefer a solid camel brown or a classic autumnal plaid.
Size range: XXS to XXL
Shop more styles: Reformation Winston Blazer ($298); Madewell Drapeweave Caldwell Blazer ($168); Outerknown Devin Blazer ($248)
7. Everyday Coat
Everlane Gathered Drape Trench
For some, this might take the form of a Parisian trench coat, for others it might be a moto jacket, utility style or even a cozy shacket. The key is that you should be able to wear this jacket with everything else in your wardrobe. Of course, you can opt for more than one style to accommodate different weather conditions, but try to limit yourself to max three jackets to help keep things streamlined.
Size range: XXS to XL
Shop more styles: J.Crew New Icon Trench Coat ($328; $230); Blank NYC Faux-Leather Moto Jacket ($98); Wilfred Free Ganna Shirt Jacket ($198); Outerknown Utility Jacket ($199)
8. Black Leggings
Zella Live In Leggings
An easy weekend option, black leggings are much easier to tuck into tall boots than jeans or trousers and are infinitely comfier if you’re traveling or running all over town. And while a matte black style is most versatile, faux-leather leggings can also be super chic and go with pretty much everything.
Size range: XXS to XXL
Shop more styles: Pari Passu Goldie Leggings ($78); lululemon Align High-Rise Leggings ($98); Athleta High-Rise Elation Tights ($89)
9. White Sneakers
Allbirds Wool Pipers
When it comes to easy, everyday footwear, there are plenty of cute styles to choose from—ballet flats, loafers, Mary Janes—but one style that will always be en vogue is the classic white lace-up sneaker. The best ones to invest in are easy to clean, either by tossing them in the wash or with a leather wipe, so they can remain as crisp as the day you bought them.
Shop more styles: Adidas Originals Stan Smith Sneakers ($95; $78); OluKai Pehuea Li Sneakers ($100); Keds Champion Originals Sneakers ($55)
10. Chelsea Boots
Caslon Miller Water-Resistant Chelsea Boots
Ah, the Chelsea boot. This casual bootie will never go out of style and, as an added bonus, is incredibly comfortable. Try to look for a weather-resistant pair, like these Caslon boots, so you don’t have to worry about wearing them out in rain, sleet or even snow.
Shop more styles: Dr. Martens 2976 Chelsea Boots ($170); Everlane Italian Leather Chelsea Boots ($195); Blundstone 510 Original Chelsea Boots ($210)
11. Tote Bag
Cuyana Classic Easy Tote
For days when you need to fit more than just the basics, a sleek tote bag is the way to go. Natural materials like real leather, suede, cotton or wool will wear better over time than synthetics (and have the added benefit of usually being more eco-friendly), meaning you can splurge a bit and know you won’t have to pony up again any time soon.
Shop more styles: Kate Spade New York Lori Tote ($109); Banana Republic Leather Tote ($190); Mansur Gavriel Small Zip Tote ($545); Calpak Haven Laptop Tote ($178)
12. Day Bag
Madewell Sydney Zip-top Crossbody Bag
And for days with a lighter load it’s smart to invest in a smaller bag that’s easier to just grab and go with the basics—keys, wallet, phone and maybe a lip balm or pair of sunnies.
Shop more styles: Cuyana Mini Double Loop Bag ($228); Mango Top Handle Bag ($50); Tory Burch Miller Classic Shoulder Bag ($448)